CH. 3


The private security business had been good the previous year, enough to where I could keep an eye on it from Ravensgate. I put Lester, one of my managers, in charge while I was away. It would help me put adequate energy into an attempted investigation of Sandy’s disappearance.

A week after signing the contract, I brought some of my belongings in the house. The first thing I did was change all the locks. I added an alarm system and put cameras on the front and back door. It wasn’t hard to be completely moved in by early August.

The calendar that hung on the refrigerator was from last year. I looked through it for any information Sandy might have left. There was nothing through all twelve months – not even an appointment or days marked off. I tossed it in the trash and would get an updated one later.

The old-style Victorian wasn’t what I was used to, but I wanted things in the house to be as close as possible to how they were when Sandy lived there. It wasn’t easy to get comfortable in the large, brooding house. There was a slight air of unease to the place.

The first night, after moving in boxes of my things, I tried relaxing in the living room and watching TV. The eerie, quiet house was unsettling. As I sat against the low back of the antique sofa, I heard noises. Sounds came from within the walls. Some type of movement. Bumping and thumping, Rats. There had to be rats in the walls. Big ones, by the sound.

I spied the white bust of the woman on the fireplace mantel. Nice touch. I noticed a similar bust on an end table in the dining room sometime earlier.

I got up from the couch to get a better feel for my new home. I wanted to see Sandy’s art studio in the cellar. I opened the basement door, next to the kitchen in the hall, and marched down the wooden steps into the basement. Spider webs hung from underneath them and in corners near the ceiling.

Metal shelving stood against the brick wall on the left. Pieces of pottery painted in various colors sat on each shelf along with small statues of the human figure, male and female. Unfinished white busts like the ones upstairs were there too. Probably some of the pieces she had practiced on. Sandy’s accurate attention to anatomy was uncanny.

When I was a kid, I used to visit and watch her sculpt from clay and marble. She let me play with the clay. I would make animals but could never produce anything like her.

The rest of the basement contained only old junk stored in plastic totes stacked atop one another. Toward the front of the house, on the far wall, was a wooden door. I opened it, revealing a smaller room with a large wooden table in its center. More shelves lined the wall opposite the door facing me, on which sat sculpted female heads, plastic bags of moist clay, and small utensils, some of them very sharp. In the corner to the left was a circular kiln in which clay was baked. Obviously, Sandy’s art studio.

I shut the door, then took the trip from the basement up two flights of stairs to the second floor. In the center of the master bedroom where Sandy slept was her large bed, its sheets neatly done, probably the work of the groundskeeper.

I opened the closet door. On hangers hung a few blouses, and on the floor were two pairs of shoes, left behind by the police I guessed. I felt I was invading Sandy’s privacy, but I looked in the dresser drawers anyway: all empty. I sat for a moment on the comfortable king-sized bed but would not sleep there. It was still Sandy’s room. I would use the guest room.

To the left of the master bedroom was the study. It would make the perfect home office. The large oak desk and leather chair were still there. The drawers contained pens, sticky notes and other office supplies. Nothing of significance.

I perused the books on the shelves. Much of it was about art. Surprisingly many were about the paranormal and occult. From what I knew, Sandy was never interested in that stuff.

The second-floor bathroom was tidy and bigger than the one downstairs. The guest bedroom contained a twin bed against the far wall with a small night table next to it. There was a closet to the right of the doorway and a dresser by the window. I’d move my clothes in later.

I needed a better look at the attic, so I jerked open the attic door from the hall and flipped the switch at the bottom of the stairs. The light turned on. Sandy had eventually changed the bulb. I followed the narrow wooden steps up and saw a large silver Maglite Flashlight standing on its head next to the railing at the top. Sandy probably left it there after changing the bulb.

The large attic was still cluttered with the old furniture covered with white sheets. One by one, I lifted them off, revealing old items like an empty dresser, a rocking chair, and a vintage waist-high radio with a wooden frame. More plastic totes containing Christmas and Halloween decorations were stacked on one another in a section of the attic.

I then peered through the circular window on the front wall. It gave a view of the front yard, the driveway, and Arkham Road. To the left of the window in the far corner sat a large wooden trunk. I went to it and tried to open it, but it was locked shut with a padlock. Did the authorities even bother with this? Something to look into.

To the right of the window, on the wall adjacent to it, was a closed door. I opened it. The large closet was empty except for a naked, armless upper torso of a female mannequin that sat on the floor. She had pink plastic skin; her bald head was turned to the left as she stared into space.

The temperature dropped and the dusty attic suddenly became cold. A draft maybe. I shut the closet door, leaving the mannequin shrouded in darkness, then headed downstairs to turn in for the night. I turned off the attic light when I reached the bottom of the steps and shut the door.

An hour later I lay in the guest room bed, unable to sleep, staring at the ceiling in the dark. The house was foreign and took some getting used to. Sleep finally came over me, and sometime later I was awakened by a sound. A hefty creak came from the ceiling above, like the one I heard when Sandy showed me the house. Another heavy creak followed the first, then another. That was no raccoon, someone was walking in the attic.

I sprang from the bed and grabbed my sidearm, which I kept in the dresser drawer. I ran into the hall, pulled open the attic door, and turned on the light switch before running up. As I stood at the top of the stairs facing the large attic, everything seemed fine, but only for a second.

“Who’s up here?” I demanded.

The light bulb that hung from the ceiling flared, then went out, leaving everything in darkness. Perfect timing. Light from the moon rushed through the circular window, illuminating a small portion of the attic, but it was still hard to see.

I paused, waiting for movement of any kind. Nothing.

I quickly grabbed the flashlight near the railing by the steps, turned it on and shined the beam around the room. Slowly, I treaded through the old furniture and junk. Anybody could have been hiding in all that clutter. My eyes slowly adjusted. A raccoon, she said. I checked in all directions with the light in one hand and my Beretta 92A1 in the other.

A stern creak on the wooden floor came from near the round window. My attention was forced there, then I saw it: the shadowy profile of a woman walking silently past the window from left to right, blocking out moonlight. The feminine curvature of her slim firm body was plainly visible. Her hair was short, and her profile was delicate.

“Stop right there!” I ordered.

With no response the silhouette disappeared into darkness, stepping beyond the window toward the closet. I aimed the flashlight in her direction, but she wasn’t there.

“Who’s here?” I asked.

I ran to the spot where the woman was in front of the window and shined the light around. Nothing. Nervously, I walked to the closet door, reached for the knob, and opened it. I saw only pitch black. The flashlight helped a little and could see the mannequin torso on the floor through the circular beam of light.

A soft breeze came from the darkness of the closet and blew my hair across my forehead. A disembodied female whisper called out, “Cole.” My heart beat faster. I couldn’t tell if the voice came from the closet or somewhere else in the attic. I turned quickly, flashing the light everywhere, and saw nothing but sheet-covered furniture.

When I turned back to face the closet, it emerged from the dark; a hand reached out for me from inside. Its gray flesh was peeling and rotted. The nails were black, and its fingers stretched outward. I stood transfixed, unable to move as the appendage came forward.

A loud banging rang out from downstairs, snapping me out of the trance. The hand was gone. Again, I saw only darkness and that strange mannequin on the floor of the closet. I had to have imagined the whole thing. My mind was playing tricks. Or it was some kind of waking dream? I shut the closet door as the pounding continued downstairs. Still a little uneasy, I realized someone was knocking at the front door. The doorbell didn’t work.

I found my way through the dark attic. I looked at my watch as I headed downstairs: nine-thirty. A late visitor.

Gaining my composure, I put the firearm in the back of my pants and opened the front door. There stood a heavy-set man, tall, middle-aged, with a full red beard and mustache wearing a gray blazer.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“Hello. I’m Karl Lansley… I tried the doorbell, but it doesn’t seem to work. I apologize for my late arrival, but can I speak with Sandy?”

“How do you know Sandy?” I asked.

“She requested my services. Sorry it’s late, but Sandy said I could come by no matter the hour. I’ve been trying to get back with her for quite some time. Her cell seems to be turned off, and she doesn’t answer her emails.”

“Sandy’s not here,” I said calmly. “She hasn’t been for some time.”

“Oh, I wasn’t aware. Did she move?”

“Not quite. Who are you? What kind of services?”

“I’m sorry, here’s my card.”

He reached into the inner pocket of his jacket and handed me a white business card.

“I’m from CPI, the Center for Paranormal Investigations,” Karl said. “Sandra and I were to schedule another meeting, but like I said, I wasn’t able to contact her by phone and got a little worried. I stopped by tonight since I’m back in town.”

“Paranormal investigations? How did you meet her?” I asked.

“She found us online. She wanted us to have a look at the house.”

“I see. What did she say about the house?”

“She thought there was activity going on here. Well, when you talk to her, tell her I came by.”

“Sure. Thanks for stopping by, Karl.”

“I appreciate it. Again, sorry for the inconvenience.”

I shut the door and walked into the living room. Through the picture window I watched the man walk down the walkway to his Chevy Impala parked in the driveway behind my Jeep. He drove off down Arkham Road then I noticed a strange light high up in the night sky. It was stationary as it changed colors from red to white to green and then blue. To get a better view, I went back to the front door, opened it, and stood on the porch.

The object was still there and began to descend. It stopped and hovered above the clouds continuing to glow while changing colors. Like a laser pointer on a wall, it moved diagonally to the upper right and stopped abruptly. It turned blue, red, then flew straight up with lightning speed and disappeared.

What the hell? Planes couldn’t do that. I shut the door, sat down on the sofa and set my gun on the coffee table. I looked at Mr. Lansley’s card. The Center for Paranormal Investigations. UFOs? Ghosts? Maybe Sandy was onto something.